Skype for Business is a popular workplace communication tool. The service, which is free with every Microsoft Office 365 Business subscription, offers features like instant messaging, video conferencing, and audio calls to teammates and associates. Using Skype for Business consists of signing up for an account, downloading the service, and navigating through its various features.
However, it is worth mentioning that Skype for Business is being phased out, and users are being pushed to the free Microsoft Teams service. Additionally, Skype for Business does not provide you with a toll-free number. Therefore, if you are looking for more powerful telephony features, we recommend Grasshopper, which offers unlimited domestic calling and text messaging to any phone number. Click the link below to start your 14-day free trial.
1. Set Up an Office 365 Account & Sign In
Skype for Business is not available as a standalone product. Instead, it requires an Office 365 Business subscription for any of the professional call service’s features to work. If you do not already have an account, you can go to the product website to get started. After that, you can sign into the service and download the app on your device.
Subscribe to Office 365
You will need an Office 365 Business subscription to use Skype for Business. The Skype app comes with any version of the service, although the Office 365 Essentials version only includes a limited web version of the service and access to the mobile app. Pricing for Office 365 starts at $5 per user, per month, for the Essentials plan and goes all the way up to $12.50 per user, per month for the Business Premium package.
It is worth noting that, along with Skype for Business, Office 365 gives you access to the other products in the Office ecosystem. These include familiar productivity solutions like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, but also include newer services like a shared OneDrive cloud storage account and Microsoft Teams, the Slack-like system that Skype for Business will be absorbed into some time in the near future.
Pricing options include:
- Office 365 Essentials: This entry-level package can be licensed to up to 300 people and comes with web and mobile versions of Skype for Business as well as the other base products in the Office 365 family. It costs $5 per user, per month. Each user can download the app on up to five phones and five tablets at once.
- Office 365 Business: This version comes with the ability to download Skype for Business on your Mac or PC. Each user can download their own version of Skype on up to five tablets, phones, and desktops. It costs $8.25 per user, per month.
- Office 365 Business Premium: This version has all the features of the Business edition but adds a companywide intranet that you can set up and deploy as well as the Microsoft Teams software and Outlook Customer Manager, which is a customer relationship management (CRM) service of sorts that lets you. It costs $12.50 per user, per month, for up to 300 users.
Sign Into Office.com
Once you have set up an Office 365 account, you are all set to download Skype for Business. Go to Office.com. If you only have the Essentials package or want to use the browser version, you are ready to go. However, the web app runs slower than the dedicated desktop and mobile versions, so we don’t recommend it in day-to-day use. After you log into your Office account, you can download the Skype desktop application for your Mac or PC.
2. Download the App on Your Computer & Mobile Device
We do not recommend using the web browser version of Skype for Business as it is not as fast or reliable as the dedicated apps. If you have any version of the service, you can download mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. If you have a Business or Business Premium account, you can also download the Mac or PC version of the system.
How To Download the Mobile App
To download Skype for Business on your mobile device, go to the app marketplace on either your iOS or Android device. Search for Skype for Business, and it should be the top search result.
Tap the download button, and then sign into the app with your Office 365 credentials when it is installed. The app will ask you if it has permission to access your contacts, camera, and notifications. You are now ready to use Skype while on the go.
How to Download the Desktop App
Once you sign into your Office 365 account, you can download the Skype for Business app right from the system’s home page. Click the Settings icon in the right corner of your screen and click Software. Click the Skype for Business link on the left-side column, select your preferred language, and then click Install.
One the app is downloaded, you will be asked to enter your login credentials. After that, you are ready to use all that Skype for Business has to offer. You can start chatting with team members and making calls right away.
3. Add Contacts to Skype for Business
When you first sign into any version of Skype for Business, you will be asked to give permission for Skype to access your phone’s contact list. If you allow it to, you will see all of the names and numbers in your address book. There will also be an organization address book of all the users signed up to your Office 365 account. Anyone who already has the app installed on their own machine or mobile device will appear on your Skype contacts list.
Adding contacts on the desktop and web versions work in a similar fashion. To add a contact in your organization, type the person’s name, username, or phone number. When that person’s name comes up in the result, right-click the person’s picture and click “Add to Contacts List.” From there, you can also enter additional information about the person for your own reference.
4. Create Contact Groups
One of Skype’s more helpful features is the fact that you can separate contacts into contact groups. When you add a new contact into the service, you will be asked what contact group you’d like to put them into. This is helpful if you want to separate teammates by department, location, or any other criteria. To make a new user group, right click your contacts list and click “Create New Group” on the list of options. You can name this group whatever you want.
This is also helpful if you have a dedicated group of people that you communicate with often. You can type the group name into the search bar and start a mass message, just like you would if you were starting a conversation with an individual.
5. Set Up Phone Numbers in Your Skype for Business Account
Skype offers the ability to make phone calls to any phone number, even if that person does not have a Skype for Business account and is much simpler to setup compared to a full-featured phone system. You can port an existing number into the service or get a new one from Microsoft. After that, you can add calling credit to your account to pay for Skype’s per-minute rates on phone calls.
Get a Phone Number From Skype
Skype can give you a new phone number to use for business calls for most countries. To get a new number, go to the Microsoft Teams admin center and click “Legacy Portal.” In the left navigation panel, Click “Voice>Phone numbers,” and then click “Add New Number.” From there, you can choose your country, region, and city to pull up a list of available phone numbers. You can also order multiple numbers at once on this screen for all of your team members.
You can also port existing phone numbers from your service provider or phone carrier. In the Skype for Business admin center, you can click “New Local Number Port Order” to launch the number porting setup wizard. This wizard will ask you to enter your account number with your carrier as well as the number in the question and any applicable PINs you need to unlock the number as dictated by your service provider.
Subscribe to a Calling Plan
Calls to other Skype for Business users are free. However, you will need to buy a calling plan to make calls to actual numbers of users outside of the service. This can make Skype for Business an expensive solution for those who plan on making a lot of calls. Additionally, it is unclear what will happen to existing phone plans once the Teams migration is complete. Contact your Microsoft service representative for more details.
Skype for Business offers two different calling plans:
- Domestic Calling Plan: $12 per user, per month. This plan enables online users to place and receive Domestic calls to any local phone number in the user’s country. It comes with 3,000 shared domestic minutes per month.
- Domestic and International Calling Plan: $24 per user, per month. This plan allows online users to make international calls. It comes with 3,000 shared domestic minutes and 600 shared international minutes. Get in touch with a Microsoft sales agent to learn more about international rates.
It is worth noting that if you want to make international calls with your communications system, this is a very expensive option. If you have an overseas business presence, you may want to look at a standalone business phone system like Grasshopper, which offers unlimited calling to all of the U.S. starting at $26 per month, which is much more affordable than Skype when you account for the cost of both the service and calling plans.
6. Start an Instant Message Conversation
Instant messaging amongst teammates is the most popular function of the service. When learning how to use Skype for Business, this is a key part of making the service useful for your organization. Being able to ping a coworker quickly to ask a question, and having that conversation in the corner of your screen is often a lot more efficient than an email or face-to-face conversation.
All you need to do to start a conversation on Skype is to click the message button and start typing. From there, you can add images, video, and other media to your message. You can even chat with multiple people at once.
To start a conversation, use the search toolbar on the main page to find the person you wish to speak with. When their name comes up in the search results, hover over their name, and a chat button will pop up over their profile picture. Click that button, and a chat window will open up. You are now free to start chatting. You can also type in multiple people’s names in the chat window to start a group conversation.
On top of messages, you can also send images, video, voice clips, and links to other users. To send a media message, click the “Add files” button on the bottom of the window. You can then choose to upload any file stored on your machine. This is great if you want to share photos from a conference, documents, videos, or anything else that you want to show your teammates.
7. Start an Audio or Video Call
In addition to sending text-based messages, using Skype for Business allows you to have both audio and video conferences over the service. This is helpful as you can share your screen and present content to coworkers rather than try to explain it to them via instant messenger (IM). Starting a call takes just a few button clicks. You can also use this function to make a phone call to an outside phone number if you have enough credits to do so.
Find the contact that you wish to speak with the same way you would start an IM. Hover over their profile picture and click either the phone button for an audio call or the camera icon for a video call. The person on the other line will then get a notification and can choose to either accept or decline the call.
Once you are in a call, there are controls for muting yourself, sharing your screen, and turning your camera on or off. These features are common in video conferencing apps as well as business phone services. You can also click the red circle button to record Skype calls, which are then saved on your local machine. This is helpful if you are discussing an important item and want to reference it at a later time.
8. Prepare for Microsoft Teams
Although it is used by millions of people around the world, Skype for Business is not going to be available for much longer. Microsoft is currently in the process of phasing out Skype, and rolling all of its features into Microsoft Teams, it’s team collaboration service that can be used for instant messaging, video calling, and working collaboratively on Office documents. The transition from Skype for Business to Teams is expected to be finished by the end of 2019.
After launching in 2017, Microsoft Teams has expanded its feature set to a point where it has all of the features of Skype for Business. That, plus its wealth of integrations with outside business software, means it’s a logical step for the company to replace their older system with this new, improved service. Mounting competitive pressure from Slack has also given Microsoft incentive to switch to a service that looks and feels almost identical to the popular communications app.
Fortunately, anyone with an Office 365 already has Microsoft Teams. In preparation for the upcoming migration to Teams, we would recommend downloading the app from your Office 365 account page and familiarizing yourself with the service’s interface and features. Microsoft has publicly stated several times that Teams will be a large part of their business software strategy going forward, so you can expect integration with other Microsoft products in the future.
Alternatives to Skype for Business & Microsoft Teams
If you have decided that Skype for Business does not suit your needs, or you are wary of the upcoming Teams migration, do not despair. There are still plenty of alternative communication apps on the market. Each one specialized in one particular communication aspect, whether that is instant messaging, video calling, or business telephony.
Grasshopper is a virtual phone system that provides you with the choice of either a local or toll-free phone number for your business. The service also comes with an automated attendant that can greet your callers automatically, provide them with a voice menu of options, and route them to their desired extension. With a starting price of just $26, this is a powerful yet affordable call handling solution. The company even offers a seven-day free trial.
Slack, which offers a free version, is an instant messaging platform for businesses of all sizes. This popular system makes it easy to chat with individual teammates, workgroups, or the entire organization in different conversations. Slack also comes with a wide range of integrations, so it can connect data with most of your other business software solutions. Click here to learn more.
Zoom is a video conferencing solution that allows meetings of up to 1,000 participants at once. The service offers a free version and comes with features like high-definition video, meeting recording, and the ability to dial into a meeting with a phone. Click the button below to get started with Zoom today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I use the personal version of Skype for my business?
In theory, yes. The consumer version of Skype is free to use and comes with features for adding contacts, chatting, and video calling that is found in the business version. However, there will be no businesswide contact list, and every employee will have to make their own individual Microsoft account to use the service. It is fine if your business is a team of just two or three people, but we don’t recommend it for serious business use.
Is Skype for Business available as a standalone application?
If you only plan on using Skype for Business, you are essentially paying for solutions that you don’t need. If communication with teammates is all you’re after, we suggest a dedicated system like Slack instead. Additionally, virtual phone services like Grasshopper handle telephony functions far better than Skype for Business’s calling capabilities.
When will Skype for Business be discontinued?
There is no firm date on the discontinuation of Skype. However, it is expected to be supported for some time yet, as there are millions of people using the system, and some businesses are slow to adapt to technological changes. For comparison, the company still issued updates for the Windows XP operating system for more than 11 years due to the large existing business user base of that software.
Skype for Business is one of the most popular business communication apps in the world. The service comes bundled with every Office 365 Business subscription and offers features like instant messaging, video conferencing, and the ability to dial outside phone numbers and use the service like an internet telephone.
If you are looking for more specialized phone service, we suggest trying out Grasshopper instead. It comes at a fraction of the price of a phone-connect Office 365 subscription, and it offers features like a free toll-free number, automated attendant, and voicemail transcription. Click the button below to start your 14-day free trial.